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IDEA Complaint Decision 06-005

On January 30, 2006, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Eau Claire Area School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district properly responded to a parent request in September 2005 for a special education evaluation of her child.

The parent began expressing concerns about her child’s educational needs, particularly reading needs, to district staff in September 2005. In late September she wrote to one of her child’s teachers specifically asking whether there were tests or evaluations which could be used to determine the student’s needs and how she could request the testing. The letter mentions that the student has a disability and the student would be seen soon by a doctor to consider a prescription for medication. The letter does not directly request a special education evaluation. District staff met with the parent several days later to discuss the parent’s concerns.

The parent wrote the teacher again in mid-October explicitly stating her belief that her child had an urgent need to be referred for a special education evaluation as soon as possible. Later that day the teacher responded by mentioning that district staff had not requested an evaluation for several reasons, including permitting time to determine whether recently prescribed medication would help the student sufficiently. The teacher continued that the parent could ask staff to refer her child for a special education evaluation or could permit the medication and recently-suggested reading assistance to continue for a period. The teacher clearly stated the parent could choose, but went on to suggest a meeting to consider options, including referring for a special education evaluation.

Several days later the parent again wrote the teacher stating that she would like to start the referral for a special education evaluation as quickly as possible. She also gave several days when she would be available to meet. Later that day district staff confirmed a meeting for one of the days early in November which the parent suggested. Several district staff met with the parent on the agreed date for a student support team meeting, a process used in the district when a student is experiencing difficulties in school. In response to the parent’s concerns, the meeting participants decided to initiate additional reading assistance for the student. District staff maintain that everyone at the meeting, including the parent, agreed not to proceed with a special education evaluation then, but rather to allow time to evaluate the effects of the medication and reading assistance and to reconvene in February. The parent acknowledges agreeing to this course, but in doing so, maintains she was influenced by a discussion at the meeting which she understood to mean her child could not be determined to be a child with a disability at that point. District staff confirmed that the discussion occurred.

In early February a student support team met again and decided to refer the student for a special education evaluation, which occurred several days later. Although district staff responded to the parent’s concerns about her child’s educational needs in several ways, including by providing additional services, they did not explain to the parent that she has a right to submit a referral and how to submit one.

State law requires school districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident children with disabilities who have not graduated from high school. A parent may submit a referral for an evaluation of a suspected disability to the school district. When a parent requests an evaluation for a suspected disability, a district must inform the parent of the right to make a referral and about how to make the referral. The district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. Several times from mid-October through early November 2005, the parent specifically requested that her child be evaluated for a suspected disability. The district did not inform the parent of her right to make a referral or how to do so. No child-specific corrective action is required because an evaluation is being conducted. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure that when a parent requests an evaluation for a suspected disability district staff will inform the parent of the right to make a referral and how to make the referral.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 3/31/06
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy